Tonight (August 17), ITV are broadcasting a re-run of The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, starring Jason Watkins. Based on true events that took place in 2010, the two-part drama focuses on how Jefferies was falsely accused of the murder of Joanna Yeates, a tenant in the building he owned and lived in. So, where is Christopher Jefferies now and how did this event affect his life?
Now in his seventies, Jefferies conducts frequent interviews, speeches, and appearances about his arrest and the media frenzy that surrounded it. "I don't think I've ever been bitter," he told the Radio Times. "And as I look back on the experience, I think I've been incredibly fortunate. Partly in the legal representation I had, which couldn't have been better. And the support I had — because I'm quite certain that I wouldn't have been able to cope if — on being released from custody — I'd have to stay in a bail hostel or something like that.
"And then, and this was the most important thing as far as my relatives were concerned, that my rehabilitation was as public as the libel. So I do feel, as I say, very fortunate."
Yeates, a 25-year-old architect, disappeared from her flat in December 2010. Her body was found later that month, on Christmas Day, five miles away from where she lived with her boyfriend, Greg Reardon. Two days after this discovery, Jefferies was arrested on suspicion of murder. Jefferies was reported to have told police that he saw Yeates leave her flat "with two other people on the night she disappeared", which would have made him the last person to see her alive.
Arrested on suspicion of murder on December 30, Jefferies was eventually ruled out as a suspect by Avon and Somerset Police following "extensive searches of the flat he owned that Yeates and Reardon lived in, and forensic searches of his possessions." A few weeks later, Yeates' 32-year-old neighbour Vincent Tabak was arrested for her murder, following a tip from an anonymous caller.
Tabak had initially be dismissed as a suspect during the early stages of the investigation, but was eventually jailed for life with a minimum of 20 years for strangling and killing Yeates. "He was in complete control and knew what he was doing," prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC said during the court case. "At the same time, he knew Joanna Yeates was resisting and fighting for her life."
Before being cleared as a suspect in the case, Jefferies was constantly scrutinised by tabloid media — and subsequently the public — due to the way he looked, his "eccentric" nature, and his connection to Yeates as her landlord. Countless defamatory headlines and reports were made by the likes of The Sun, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record, Daily Star, The Scotsman, and Daily Express, all of which were made to pay "substantial libel damages" to Jefferies following a court case against them.
Jefferies would later play a substantial role in the Leveson Inquiry, which was established in 2011 by then Prime Minister David Cameron, to investigate the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, and the general ethics of the British newspaper industry. "The national media shamelessly vilified me. The UK press set about what can only be described as a witch hunt," Jefferies said in a statement he submitted to the inquiry, per BBC News. "It was clear that the tabloid press had decided that I was guilty of Miss Yeates's murder and seemed determined to persuade the public of my guilt.
"They embarked on a frenzied campaign to blacken my character by publishing a series of very serious allegations about me which were completely untrue. Allegations which were a mixture of smear, innuendo, and complete fiction."
Watch the drama unfold tonight at 9 p.m. on ITV.